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Colic? Cool it!

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
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A frown on the face, a prayer on the lips and a crying baby in the lap! These are the tell-tale signs of a colicky baby in the family.

Infantile colic is one of the commonest yet cumbersome problem of the early infancy which gives the babies periodic tummy ache. Besides giving the parents – headache and the paediatricians – a tough time!

What is Colic?

Some call this condition an ‘Evening colic’ for its tendency to occur in the evenings while others term it a ‘3 month colic’ for its tendency to improve by the age of three months. It usually starts at the age of 1 month. The classical scenario is of a previously, perfectly well baby suddenly starting to cry loudly and incessantly at about 5 p.m.

With the face flushed, legs curled up, hands tightly clenched, feet cold and lips sometimes pale the picture is really distressing. The abdomen is mildly distended and some gurgling sounds can be heard or even felt over it. There is usually no relief offered by cuddling or feeding. This goes on in bouts lasting 15 to 30 minutes for the next 4-5 hours. Then either with the passage of flatus or stools baby gets some relief and in an exhausted state goes off to sleep. In the milder cases only the grumpy face and irritability of the baby are the pointers to the presence of the condition.

Causes of Colic:
What causes this colic is still a mystery. Overfeeding, underfeeding, personality of the baby, parental interaction, maternal food (especially cow milk), hyperactivity of the gut because of chemical/hormonal imbalance – practically everything under the sun is blamed as the villain of the piece.

Not every crying baby is having a colic. Feeling wet, cold, hot, hungry or lonely is also expressed by the babies in the only language it knows – crying! Faulty feeding technique leading to baby’s swallowing of air coupled with poor burping is one of the most common culprits in such cry-babies.

I won’t stimulate your imagination (and provide you with unnecessary reasons to panic!) by harping on some serious causes of excessive crying but would certainly like you to keep an eye over any abnormalities in temperature or feeding of the baby. Also to note the presence of associated problems like vomiting, constipation or increasing abdominal distension. Any doubt and it is wiser to let an expert have a look.

Managing Evening colic:

Over-the –counter gripe-water or herbal tea prescription is certainly not my cup of tea. Such medicines can have unnecessary sedatives and some toxic chemicals. Instead try following simple measures:

1)      Keep the baby prone (i.e. on the tummy) on your lap.
2)      Gently rub the abdomen.
3)      Keep a warm towel or a warm water bag on the tummy.

If there is no response to such efforts then with the doctor’s advice you could use some medicines like simethicone drops which are quite effective.

For me, reassuring the parents about the transient and benign nature of this condition is the prime task of the paediatrician.

Many a time just a pat on the shoulder is what it takes to take the frown off the parents’ faces and put the smile back on the baby’s face!

Here is an informative video on Infantile Colic by our Right Parenting expert Dr. Sridhar Kalyanasundaram. Check it out!

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